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Last spring, a Palestinian farmer came across a hard object in the ground while planting a new olive tree. Over the course of three months, he and his son slowly unearthed an ornate Byzantine-era mosaic that experts say is one of the greatest archaeological treasures ever found in Gaza.
better protection of the Gaza Antiquities, a fragile collection of monuments that is at constant risk due to the conflict between Israel and local Palestinian militants.
The mosaic was discovered just a kilometer from the Israeli border. The floor with 17 images of animals and birds is well preserved and has bright colors.
“These are the most beautiful mosaic floors discovered in Gaza, both in terms of graphic quality images, and complexity of geometry”, — said René Elter, an archaeologist at the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem.
Elter says that the mosaic ox dates back to between the 5th and 7th centuries, making the find at least 1,500 years old. But he noted that proper excavations should be carried out to determine exactly when the mosaic was created and whether it was part of a religious or secular complex.
The Gaza Strip, a Palestinian coastal enclave sandwiched between Israel and Egypt, was a busy trade route between Egypt and the Levant in ancient times. The coastal strip is full of evidence of ancient civilizations, from the Bronze Age to the Islamic and Ottoman eras .
However, treasures are rarely guarded. They have been looted in the past. In recent years, some of them have been damaged or destroyed as a result of construction projects or fighting. The Israeli-Egyptian blockade, imposed after the terrorist group Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, has devastated the economy , leaving few resources to protect the antiquities.
The Hamas-run antiquities department described the mosaic as a “big archaeological discovery” but declined to comment further, saying an official announcement would be made at a later date.
< br />The owner of the land, who declined to identify himself before the official announcement, covered the excavated part of the mosaic floor with tin sheets. He said he hoped to be compensated for the protection of the unique find on his property. about 500 square meters, and in three excavated places you can see the peeping sections of the mosaic.
In the largest of the holes in the ground, about 2 meters by 3 meters, there are 17 animal drawings. The other two show intricate patterns of tiles. The roots of an old olive tree have damaged parts of the mosaic, which has a total area of about 23 square meters.
Archaeologists also fear that excavations carried out by inexperienced people may damage the find. Elter hopes that a professional team will be able to excavate properly , restore and protect the mosaic.
“Rescue intervention must be quickly organized”, — said Elter.
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